ATLANTIC CITY — The resort got a little more attractive Saturday as hundreds of model-wannabes caked on their makeup, slipped on their best stilettos and flocked to The Walk to audition for a chance to be on “America’s Next Top Model.”
The melodramatic reality show, produced by and starring supermodel Tyra Banks, pits a group of women against each other for a career in the modeling industry.
Some of the women came from hours away for a chance to have America gawk at them on national television. Others, like Atlantic City resident Tanisha Stowe, only had to travel across town.
“I work at Old Navy, so it didn’t take me long at all to get here,” Stowe said while waiting in line outside a vacant retail space where the auditions were held — once the site of an Ecko store — which is only a few doors down from her store.
But the 25-year-old said she offered something that none of the out-of-towners could.
“I’m from Atlantic City, and I want to give back to Atlantic City, because God knows we need it right now,” she said. “And I want to show people that, if you work hard enough at something, that you can make it out of here. Because I know a lot of people around here who think that’s impossible.”
The chances of making it on the show are slim, however.
Sofia Sosangelis, a sales and marketing manager for CBS-3/CW Philly, said the show held a similar casting call in Clementon, Camden County, two years ago and only one girl from that location actually made it on the show.
“But she did end up winning the whole thing,” said Sosangelis, adding that anyone who does advance to the next phase of the audition process would not find that out until after the Los Angeles-based producers review their photos and videos.
Many of Saturday’s hopefuls were confident that they could have that same kind of success.
Philadelphia resident Marquicha Green said she’s spent most of her life behind the camera, taking pictures.
But when the 18-year-old heard about the auditions for the show's 17th “cycle” — Cycle 16 is scheduled to premiere on The CW later this month — she figured it was a terrific opportunity to finally get in front of the camera, even though she has no prior modeling experience.
“People are always telling me that I should be a model, and it’s something that I always thought about doing. I’ve been watching the show since Cycle 3, now it’s Cycle 17,” Green said. “Why not give it a shot?”
With no modeling experience under her belt, Green said she was ready for anything.
“They’re just going to take our pictures, ask us a few questions and make us do our little walk — I got that down,” she said. “I know it can get catty on the show sometimes, but I’ve got thick skin.”
But others were admittedly nervous about getting rejected.
“I have a tattoo on my hip that says ‘Live Without Regrets’ that I think could hurt my chances,” said Cynthia Lane, 19, of East Hampton, who was encouraged to audition by her aunt Cerelina, a model herself. “But this is something I’ve always watched and always wanted to try, so I’m giving it a shot.”
This was Blackwood resident Gina Fabrico’s second time trying out.
“I went (to) the auditions that were held in Philly, but I didn’t make it through because I really wasn’t prepared for it. When they asked me why I wanted to be on the show, all I could think to say was that I thought that it would be good experience,” said Fabrico, 20. “The real reason I want to do this is because I think that I offer something different. I can be a great representative for the full-figured community. I think I have to do a better job of letting Tyra know that this time.”
But with Banks not expected to be in attendance, the prospective models had to settle for a cardboard cutout of the supermodel that easily blew over whenever the door opened. That didn’t seem to matter, however, as many of the women eagerly took turns posing for photos next to it.
While Atlantic City has played host for similar casting calls in recent months — popular CBS-reality shows “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race” held auditions in separate Atlantic City casinos last year — general manager Kim Butler said Saturday’s event was a first for The Walk.
“This is a great location for this,” said Butler, adding many of the stores opened early at 8 a.m. and handed out coupons to make the experience more enjoyable for the overwhelmingly female crowd. “We have a lot of great brands here, and these are people who obviously have a big interest in fashion. There’s a lot of synergy.”
But for contestants such as Ocean City resident Melissa Rosenthal, Saturday’s casting call was less about the perks and more about the doors it could open to a better life.
“I’ve gone through a lot in my life that I think makes me stronger than most people. I used to have a drug problem that I overcame, and I’ve been working two jobs — cutting hair and working at McDonald’s — since my son was born two years ago, just to get by,” said Rosenthal, 23, who waited in line with her young son, Aiden Finch, in her arms.
“I’ll be able to deal with all the cattiness and drama that comes with being on the show, especially if it means that I’ll be better off financially to support my son.”
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